I was sitting in the church basement, waiting for Sr. Youth to start. Chatting and laughing with the few kids who were there. Then TheHusband came through the door and motioned to the Youth Leader that he needed to talk to her. When she came back in the room I knew something was wrong. There were tears in her eyes and she would only say “You need to go home now.” So I grabbed my purse and walked out to my car, where TheHusband was waiting.
“Everything’s fine, I’ll tell you what’s going on when we get home.” For a fleeting moment I believed him. What kind of sweet surprise does he have planned for me? But it was a lie. I knew it. If everything was fine, why would the Youth Leader have looked ready to cry and why would he look so serious? So I drove home, trying not to speed, and trying not to think horrible things.
When I pulled in to the parking lot, I knew, like you just know certain things, it had to do with Dad. “What’s going on?” I asked before we could even get inside the building.
“There was a fire at the house.”
“My parents’ house?”
“Your parents’ house?”
“No, the house in #####.”
“and. . . ?”
“They didn’t get out.”
“Both of them, or just Dad?”
I’m scared now. If it’s Dad I can handle it, but Mom too? I’m not ready for that. I’ve been preparing myself for years for the phone call about Dad. But not. . . not both of them, not at the same time.
“I don’t know, let’s just get inside.”
This is when it clicks, it’s Wednesday night and Mom should have been at work. Was she sick? Did her schedule change? What the heck is going on?
We get into the building, the adrenaline is flowing, and I can’t decide whether to run to the phone or to shake TheHusband for more information. I do both, but neither produces much results. Brother5 left a voicemail and TheHusband hasn’t been able to get him to answer his phone. It takes me ten minutes, TEN MINUTES, to think to call the sheriff’s department (it’s a small town, and the county provides law enforcement).
TheHusband looks up the number and makes the call. They give him the phone number of an officer at the scene. He dials while I grab a suitcase to pack. I hear him on the phone explaining who he is and I pick up an extension in time to hear that the house is pretty much gone and they “lost” Dad.
Lost. That’s what they said, like he simply wandered away in the grocery store. That’s not what happened, and we all know it. I want to scream “He’s not lost! You know where he is, go get him!” But I know it’s too late. Then it registers, he said no one else was in the house. Just Dad. I feel relief flood through me, then shame. Dad’s dead, and I’m relieved I’m not an orphan. What is my problem?